How to Get Your Guests to Talk: Eight Feedback Collection Strategies

Here is a fun and terrifying stat: more than 96% of guests who are dissatisfied don’t complain.  They just… don’t come back.  You really can’t blame them either.  It’s so much easier to not complain than it is to write that email, post that review, or make that phone call.  If I know I’m not going back, why should I do anything?

By now we should be on the same page that you aren’t getting enough guest complaints.  And it’s not just about complaints either.  General comments, suggestions, and what about that staff member who is absolutely crushing it?  It doesn’t seem fair that they’re bringing their A-game to work every day and most of your guests aren’t letting them get the recognition they deserve.

If you want more guest feedback (and better feedback than you’re getting now), work toward implementing these eight steps into your guest communication strategy.


  1. Automate it

This is the first major step to reducing that gap of 96% of guests who aren’t going to comment on their experience.  Set that email to send automatically, and get back to focusing on the biggest issues of the day.  Guest feedback should not be an event or a seasonal campaign; it should apply to every single guest who visits you, every day the week, every week of the year.


  1. Time it just right

When traveling for work and upon checking into a hotel, one of the first things I usually do is connect to the hotel’s WiFi.  There are many instances where connecting to the hotel’s WiFi triggers a survey that measures satisfaction with the hotel stay.  I usually discard this survey, because I haven’t had enough of an experience yet to rate the entire stay.  If it were to ask how my arrival process was, then the experience would be fresh in my mind and can measure exactly what I’ve experienced thus far.  Then, another survey upon departure can go deeper into the perception of the entire visit.

If you’re automating the feedback collection process, have your emails sent the following day.  This gives guests time to think about their visit but it’s still fresh make in their mind.  Don’t wait too long, but also make sure the experience is complete. 


  1. Let them open up

Beyond surveying them on their satisfaction toward key metrics, turn them loose and let them tell you what’s important to them in written form.  Maybe it wasn’t on the survey or maybe they have more to add to it.  If you are just relying on quantitative metrics you are missing the content; letting them craft a narrative of their experience dramatically helps you understand what the data mean.


  1. Sweeten the deal when appropriate

Not everyone agrees with this, but it does work to boost your capture rate, so it’s up to you if it will work best with your business.  Incorporating an incentive that goes into effect on the guest’s next visit can help significantly increase your responses.  To help weed out the ones who are just doing it for the deal, give them a discount off a premium item, so it’s more than your standard admission, and in theory should be higher than your average per cap.  That way when it works you get feedback, a returning visitor, and an increase in sales.

Note: This is only recommended for feedback you are collecting internally.  Never offer an incentive for posting an online review.


  1. Organize it

One guest’s opinion is exactly that: one guest’s opinion.  If one person tells you that your fries are terrible, it doesn’t mean that you should start looking for a new potato vendor.  But if 10 guests in the same week said so, then it’s time to start looking into what’s going on.  The only way you can do this is by regularly organizing guest feedback, aggregating all submissions and looking at it in categories, measured over time.  This is how you ensure your priorities rise to the top while your “complaints for the sake of complaints” are dealt with and moved to the bottom of the list.


  1. Create a dialogue

Guest feedback is guest communication, and guest communication is an extension of the guest experience.  An upset guest might feel some relief just by sharing it with you, but that doesn’t mean that the conversation is over.  Every day that goes by without a call back or a response further exacerbates the guest’s frustration, making their likelihood to return even lower.  Even if it’s a complaint you’ve heard 100 times, act like it’s brand new with every guest, and they will feel heard.


  1. Make changes

All of this is worth nothing if you aren’t taking action.  The purpose of collecting guest feedback is to identify pain points in your operation and in your guest experience, and then fixing them.  Your long-term actions for resolving issues will ultimately reduce friction, increase guest satisfaction, boost employee morale, and drive more revenue into your business.  By focusing on eliminating the source of your most common guest complaints, you are showing your guests and your staff alike that you are committed to continuous improvement.


  1. Rinse and repeat

Just like step one says, this is not a one-time event.  Guest feedback collection and the actions that result from it should be a regular part of your operation.  By following each of these steps on a regular basis you will demonstrate to your guests that you are a feedback-based business, and that what they have to say truly matters.  Even if your feedback collection process is automated, you must be continually iterating and making an even better experience for your guests every single day.  No part of your guest experience can plateau, meaning you can always work toward getting better.